WATERTOWN — Some staff might have forgotten the code to get in. There may have been a glitch in the credit card system. Regardless, Shuler’s Restaurant is back after nearly closing permanently.
Many restaurants waited to open gradually as the state allowed. They went to take-out. They sold merchandise. They had outdoor seating. They operated at half capacity, but Shuler’s, 802 Mill St., a family restaurant on Mill Street for more than 30 years, motored down entirely.
“It’s a tough decision,” said Terry Williams, who has owned the restaurant since November 2014.
Shuler’s isn’t geared for being open partially. It’s all or nothing and catered to families who want to sit down. Takeout was not going to work. Still, Mr. Williams’s first concern was his employees before he decided to close in March.
“We made sure our employees had gotten their final paycheck and then we assisted them in getting unemployment,” he said, “and then we just played it by ear.”
Time went on and the bills continued. Mr. Williams describes it as stressful. He had to dump a few thousand dollars worth of food. He met with bankruptcy attorneys. They were missing their busiest time of the year.
“As time went on,” Mr. Williams said, “we started wondering if we should close.”
Then social media came into play. Shuler’s has been more active on Facebook over the last year, getting a direct line of a communication to their customers. When they closed, the amount of messages they received asking when they’d reopen was overwhelming.
Social media began to circulate rumors that Shuler’s had closed permanently. The owners posted on Facebook debunking the rumors, and over 13,000 people viewed it. The messages asking them to reopen surged.
Most importantly, just like in March, it came down to his employees. His brother-in-law is the head chef, his daughter is the lead server, another daughter helps out after her day job and his grandchildren come in when they can.
“The rest of the employees became like family to us,” Mr. Williams said. “So we decided let’s give it another whirl.”
After nearly six months, Shuler’s opened for dinner on Wednesday. Some staffers forgot the code to get in. There was a glitch in the credit card reader, but, overall, the night was a success, Mr. Williams said.
“We’re happy to be back,” he said. “Watertown has been a pretty competitive market as far as chain restaurants moving in here, but I think people’s feelings have changed and they are supporting local restaurants, and we have been just amazed at the support.”